NASA’s Juno spacecraft is known for the stunning images of Jupiter it regularly takes with its JunoCam instrument and for its research into Jupiter’s exotic atmosphere.
But recently the spacecraft has also been investigating moons of Jupiter, such as the icy moon Europa or the largest moon in our solar system, Ganymede.
Juno begins its investigation of the intriguing volcanic moon Io, as the spacecraft is scheduled to perform a series of nine flybys of Io starting December 15, 930 miles from the lunar surface, Digitartlends reported.
Study of the moons of Jupiter
“With each close flyby, we were able to glean a wealth of new information,” Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute said in a statement. “Juno’s sensors are designed to study Jupiter, but we’re pleased with how well they can do double duty by Observing Jupiter’s moons.”
Io is of particular interest because it is the most volcanic place in the solar system, and it also has the highest density and strongest surface gravity of any moon.
Previous research has shown that it contains more than 400 active volcanoes, which are triggered by tidal forces from Jupiter and its other moons causing friction to heat its interior.
Previous observations from Juno have captured an infrared image, which shows hot spots across the moon’s surface.
Juno will study the way Io’s volcanic activity interacts with Jupiter’s magnetosphere, as the planet has a strong magnetic field surrounding it and interacting with its moons.
Juno’s observations of the moons also pave the way for future missions to study these objects in more depth, such as the European Space Agency’s JUpiter ICy moon Explorer or JUICE, and NASA’s Europa Clipper mission to Europe.